Category Archives: Information

Jack Dorsey and Jay-Z Invested in Bitcoin Endowment

Jack Dorsey and Jay Z have created an endowment to fund bitcoin development initially in Africa and India, TechCrunch reported. Jack Dorsey is the CEO of Twitter and Square, and Jay-Z is a rapper. TechCrunch also reported that the two have pledged 500 bitcoin – which is around $23.3 million – toward ₿trust.

On February 11, 2021, @jack tweeted: “JAY-Z/@S_C_ and I are giving 500 BTC to a new endowment named ₿trust to fund #Bitcoin development, initially focused on teams in Africa & India. It’ll be set up as blind irrevocable trust, taking zero direction from us. We need 3 board members to start:”

There appears to be good reason to focus on teams in Africa. According to TechCrunch, Africa (especially Nigeria) has experienced a surge in cryptocurrency transactions recently. Cryptocurrency offered protection against currency devaluation and for value exchange during cross-border transactions. Bitcoin is also useful for situations where the government shut down bank accounts.

India, however, might pose a problem regarding Bitcoin. Bloomberg Quint reported that India has introduced a bill called The Cryptocurrency and Regulation of Official Digital Currency Bill, 2021, to the ongoing Budget session of Parliament.

It is possible that the 500 BTC in the irrevocable trust could help people in Africa (who are already using Bitcoin.) It might not work out so well in India if their government is ready to ban Bitcoin.

CNBC reported about the downside of Bitcoin. It has a carbon footprint comparable to that of New Zealand, producing 36.95 megatons of CO2 annually, according to Digiconomist’s Bitcoin Energy Consumption Index. It also consumes as much power as Chile. The Cambridge Bitcoin Electricity Consumption index says Bitcoin produces 110.53 TWh, which is more than the entire annual energy consumption of the Netherlands.

I think that Jack Dorsey and Jay-Z mean well and want to help people by making Bitcoin available to them. The environmental cost of bitcoin is too high. Perhaps Jack Dorsey and Jay-Z can invest in something that wouldn’t harm the planet as much as cryptocurrency mining does.

Facebook is blocking screen shares while Live

It has come to my attention that Facebook has started to kill a live stream anytime you show your computer screen. Last Thursday I was live and as soon as I shared a screen from my computer Facebook killed the stream. This also happened today when I did the New Media Show. This is very troubling as they are trying to prevent anyone from showing anything but the primary live screen.

This prevents people like me from actively switching my live show. If anyone else is experiencing this let me know but this changes the dynamic of my show I do live. This could be an attempt to stop people that are re-streaming content. For those of use using Facebook responsibly, this is incredibly troubling.

Substack Described its View of Content Moderation

Substack is a writing website that enables writers to publish to email and the web from one place. Each writer can make a newsletter which readers will pay for if they wish to read the writer’s work. Substack has a blog post in which it described its view of content moderation. Personally, I’m not entirely convinced that it will work out the way Substack hopes it would.

One big concept in Substack’s blog post is that readers are in full control of what they see. Readers make a conscious decision about which writers to invite into their inboxes and which ones to support with money. This gives Substack writers the potential to earn money for their writing. Any writer can choose to leave Substack at any time.

The other big concept is an emphasis on a style of content moderation that does not include censorship.

From the start, we have set out to encourage a broad range of expression on Substack. In most cases, we don’t think that censoring content is helpful, and in fact it often backfires. Heavy-handed censorship can draw more attention to content than it otherwise would have enjoyed, and at the same time it can give the content creators a martyr complex that they can trade off for future gain. We prefer a contest of ideas. We believe dissent and debate is important. We celebrate nonconformity.

That said, there are some limitations. Substack does not allow porn, spam, doxing or harassment. They also have content guidelines that will evolve as Substack grows. According to Substack: “There will always be many writers on Substack with whom we strongly disagree, and we will err on the side of respecting their right to express themselves, and their readers’ right to decide for themselves what to read.”

I can see some potential problems with the “hands off” content moderation that Substack is choosing. Those who want to write misinformation about COVID-19, vaccines, elections, voting rights, or specific politicians they happen to dislike, might decide that Substack is the place for them since it won’t censor (most) topics. Substack could quickly be overrun with the worst content that appears on social media sites – and the worst conversations that go along with it.

Substack appears to hope that their content moderation policies will attract writers of a wide variety of viewpoints and political persuasions. Perhaps that will happen. Or, Substack could be overwhelmed with a very lopsided mix of writers – who systematically push off the ones that they don’t agree with.

Facebook Uses Questionable Claims to Attack Apple

Starting early next year, Apple will enable a change in an upcoming iOS 14 update that Facebook is really angry about. MacRumors reported that the change will require users to grant permission for their activity to be tracked for personalized advertising purposes. Facebook clearly does not want people to be able to opt-out of targeted advertising.

Bloomberg reported that Facebook Inc. purchased a series of full-page newspaper ads in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post titled: “We’re standing up to Apple for small businesses everywhere”.

In the full-page ad, Facebook claimed: “While limiting how personalized ads can be used does impact larger companies like us, these changes will be devastating to small businesses, adding to the many challenges they face right now.” To me, this is a very tiny acknowledgement that Apple’s iOS 14 update will harm Facebook’s ability to make money.

First off, it is questionable that Facebook calls targeted advertising “personalized ads”. Colorful language is often used to convince people that the thing that they do not want is somehow beneficial to them. This is especially true when a large company tries to persuade you to let them access your data.

Secondly, Facebook is hoping that you will believe that small businesses will become unsustainable if Apple users choose to opt-out of targeted advertising and tracking. That claim is questionable because the update hasn’t launched yet. Right now, there is absolutely no data that Apple’s privacy protection will kill off small businesses.

According to Bloomberg, Facebook is also upset about Apple’s newly launched “nutrition-label” style feature in its App Store. That feature outlines what data third-party apps collect. Bloomberg noted that Facebook may have seen this as an attack on Facebook’s app “given the amount of information it gathers.”

GitHub Reinstated YouTube-dl and will Overhaul DMCA Reviews

GitHub announced that they reinstated youtube-dl after receiving additional information about the project that enabled GitHub to reverse a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) takedown. As a result, GitHub has created a developer-focused approach that requires specific steps that will be performed before any takedown claim is processed.

TechCrunch reported that in October, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) sent a DMCA complaint to GitHub over YouTube-dl. The project allowed viewers to download YouTube videos for offline viewing. The RIAA said that this circumvented DRM and promoted the piracy of several popular songs.

As a result, GitHub took down YouTube-dl because platforms like it have to comply with laws. In their blog post, GitHub noted: “DCMA takedown claims based on circumvention are a growing, industry-wide issue for developers with far-reaching implications.” There was also another problem:

Section 1201 dates back to the late 1990s and did not anticipate the various implications it has for software use today. As a result, Section 1201 makes it illegal to use or distribute technology (including source code) that bypasses technical measures that control access or copying of copyrighted works, even if that technology can be used in a way that would not be copyright infringement.

GitHub states that it received information that showed the youtube-dl project does not in fact violate the DMCA’s anticircumvention prohibitions. GitHub concluded that the allegations did not establish a violation of the law. As a result, GitHub reinstated the youtube-dl project.

There is a detailed list of things that GitHub is changing in their effort to overhaul their 1201 claim review process. They are doing this at their own cost and at no cost to the developers who use GitHub.

To me, these changes could prevent the RIAA from having a DMCA takedown request immediately acted upon. It also sounds like the changes enable GitHub to do some investigating about the validity of the RIAA claim before taking action.

Homes Need Disruption and Innovation

I hate decorating. I really hate decorating. It’s not that I’m lazy or I don’t want my home to look good. It’s just so….primitive. There have been all these advances in science, technology and medicine but when it comes to our homes, we’re content to throw some paint on the wall like Stone Age cave art. Prefer wallpaper? It originated in China before becoming popular in Europe during the 15th century, and as for tiles, the Romans were a dab hand at mosaics 2,000 years ago. All modern innovations then.

Decorating’s a bit like putting lipstick on a pig as homes are so badly designed and built. Fundamentally, houses haven’t changed in over a couple of centuries but I’ll give you central heating and cavity walls if you really want. Let’s take a look at the average UK home and the ways they’re bodged to meet an acceptable standard.

  • plastering – a house can’t be built with straight walls or a good finish so we have to trowel plaster on top to make it look acceptable.
  • skirting boards – the walls don’t meet the floor neatly so we have to use skirting boards to hide the messy join.
  • tiles – they’re stuck on so permanently they have to be smashed to get them off and it’s back to plastering.
  • doorframes – all the fancy woodwork around a door because we can’t figure out how to put a hole in a wall without it being a mess.
  • central heating – a boiler heats hot water to 60C to pass through radiators to then heat the air in a room to 20C. How can that be efficient? – just heat the air directly, and there’s far less mess if there’s a leak.
  • light switches, light fittings and power sockets – can’t move them without specialists and then you have to decorate all over again once they’ve made a mess.

Domestic homes are junk. I’ve seen better designed Lego buildings. Businesses didn’t put up with the inflexibility and got air management, raised floors, suspending ceilings and trunking.

Of course, it’s all down to vested interests. For the UK, the British Coatings Federation reckons paint is a £3.2 billion industry of which 65% is decorative. The UK plumbing industry is £17bn. If ever there was a market ripe for disruption and innovation it’s the domestic housing market. Builders build as many homes as they can as cheaply as possible and there’s such a shortage of new homes in the UK that they can get away with it.

I’m not asking for a “smart home”, but a flexible quality structure that better meets the needs of people in the 21st century. How about it Apple? Design a better home….that sounds right up your street.

The Citizen Browser Project Measures How Disinformation Travels

Have you ever wondered how algorithms are affecting the spread of misinformation on social media? There’s a project that was designed with that question in mind. The Citizen Browser Project is an initiative designed to measure how disinformation travels across social media platforms over time.

At the center of The Citizen Browser Project is a custom web browser designed by The Markup to audit the algorithms that social media platforms use to determine what information they serve their users, what news and narratives are amplified or suppressed, and which online communities those users are encouraged to join. Initially, the browser will be implemented to glean data from Facebook and YouTube.

A nationally representative panel of 1,200 people will be paid to install the custom web browser on their desktops, which allows them to share real-time data directly from their Facebook and YouTube accounts with The Markup. Data collected from this panel will form statistically valid samples of the American population across age, race, gender, geography, and political affiliation, which will lead to important insights about how Facebook’s and YouTube’s algorithms operate.

To protect the panel’s privacy, The Markup will remove personally identifiable information collected by the panel and discard it, only using the remaining redacted data in its analyses.

Personally, I find this to be very interesting. It isn’t something I can participate in, because I stopped using Facebook years ago and refuse to go back to it. That said, people who use both Facebook and YouTube could choose to participate in the The Citizen Browser Project – and get paid to do so.

I’ve always believed that we need more than a promise from social media companies that they are doing their best to prevent the spread of misinformation. We need an outside source, like The Citizen Browser Project, to collect data that will show not only how much misinformation is on those platforms, but how it the algorithms of the platforms are enabling the spread of misinformation.